Wednesday, May 22, 2024
10.6 C


My Account

- Advertisement -

Milestone worth the journey

Last week marked a milestone for the Carterton District. We held a blessing for our wastewater ponds upgrade project, which is arguably one of Carterton’s biggest and most ambitious projects to date. Not only have we secured our ability to cater for growth until at least 2050, but we are miles ahead of councils much larger than ours. Just look at what a small council with vision, courage and commitment can achieve when it backs itself.

I was involved at the start of this project when we purchased the adjoining farm and started setting up the irrigators, and I have kept a close eye on it since. I must tip my hat to our community, especially our long-standing ratepayers. You paid a price to secure our future. You have stuck with the long-term proposal and rightly expressed dissatisfaction when things got off track.

We all know this project had its hiccups. But thanks to our new chief executive, new management, and a new team around the council table, we have seen this project through to success. I thank Colin Wright, our former chief executive, and all the councillors who boldly decided to realise our vision. I would also like to acknowledge the Mangatarere Restoration Society, which led the planting of over 6000 trees in the surrounding wetlands, co-ordinating other community groups and businesses to assist.

We have learned much on this journey, whether it’s how we manage our projects, or our relationship with those affected. We are particularly grateful for the relationship we have developed with Ngāti Kahukuraāwhitia, the hapū whose land we have been able to utilise.

Other than blowing our own trumpet, what does all this mean?

There has been a lot of talk about infrastructure since 2016 and councils’ ability to maintain, manage and upgrade their “Three Waters” services, culminating in the reforms and nationalisation of assets through policy.

Carterton has long been preparing to cope with rapid population growth, and climate change impacts and to manage treated wastewater in a more environmentally and culturally sustainable manner. We have a roadmap in place and the investment that has burdened our ratepayers is starting to reap rewards. Our aspiration was to create something truly significant, innovative and long lasting by reducing the amount of treated wastewater going into our waterways as close to zero as possible. This we have done whilst keeping our debt equity at 6 per cent.

So, does Carterton even need to be part of the Government’s “Three Waters” reforms? We have already future-proofed our assets without crippling debt and have a highly capable in-house team. Yet soon we will be forced to hand over our assets to the new Water Services Entity [WSE] who will take control and be responsible for managing, maintaining and further developing them. They will, of course, charge and rate for this.

We can’t stop this, but we can be satisfied that the assets we’re handing over are high quality, future-proofed and capable of sustainably delivering environmentally safe wastewater.

The upside is we will hand over all related debt to the WSE without needing to borrow in future. The downside is that we lose all control to the WSE, and we will be at their mercy when it comes to the quality of maintenance, future investments, costs and charges. Carterton’s level of excellence and innovation might be lost. I worry that Carterton’s ratepayers will be thought to be “well off” when compared to others and not in need of the same level of forward planning for the future.

Perhaps, given that we have done all this and still managed to keep our average rate increase for 2023-24 down at 5.9 per cent, the government might consider giving councils like us access to an infrastructure fund, [as suggested in the Future For Local Government report] and an opt-out clause for Three Waters.

Left to our own devices and with financial support, I am totally confident our Council could continue to manage its Three Waters assets and develop long-lasting solutions.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

Related Articles

- Advertisement -
moderate rain
10.6 ° C
11.6 °
10.6 °
95 %
100 %
11 °
10 °
11 °
11 °
12 °